Book Review: Novel Casts Jewish Characters in Legal Battle for Cord Blood

April 26, 2013 3:05 pm 0 comments

Liz Rosenberg, author of "The Laws of Gravity," which Donald H. Harrison covers in this book review. Photo: Amazon.

SAN DIEGO—Liz Rosenberg’s The Laws of Gravity, to be published this May, casts a full set of Jewish main characters in a legal battle over cord blood in New York, making it a natural source for reflections on Torah teachings that help us evaluate the book’s case from a perspective beyond secular state law.

The upcoming novel portrays a protagonist, Ari, who is a protective older first cousin to Nicole. Ari, fascinated by Nicole’s long red hair, is in love with his close relative but will not admit it to anyone else. Never able to have her, he settles on a marriage to her best friend who was plain but very funny, a regular stand-up comedian.

After Ari and Nicole marry their respective spouses, Mimi and Jay, they continue to socialize. Practically brought up together on Long Island, Ari and Mimi’s son, Julian, enjoys a loving relationship with Daisy, the daughter of Nicole and Jay, seemingly replicating his father’s feelings for her mother.

But this picture goes out of focus after medical tests show that Nicole has developed cancer and will probably die unless she can obtain cord blood from the placenta that once nourished Julian as a fetus.

Ari had paid for the umbilical cord blood to be saved in case it was needed by either of his children, Julian or Arianna. He now spreads the same protectiveness he once had lavished on Nicole over his children. When Nicole asks Ari to allow her to be treated with the cord blood, he reluctantly agrees. But when Julian comes down temporarily with a sickness, alarm bells go off in Ari’s head and he withdraws his agreement. He explains that the cord blood really might be needed by Julian or Arianna, and that his child, not his cousin, must be his first priority. Mimi disagrees.

This sets the stage for a trial in which Nicole sues her cousin to release the cord blood— a trial that attracts national media attention and poses the question of the sanctity of an individual’s body versus one’s obligation to help another.

The case impacts not only the two litigating cousins, and their immediate families, but also the retiring New York judge to whom the dispute is assigned. A humanitarian, Judge Solomon Richter wants desperately to be able to find a way to save Nicole’s life, but as a jurist who follows the law—rather than one who makes it—he knows that most points and authorities are on Ari’s side of the argument.

While the legal drama comprises a good portion of the novel, author Rosenberg in turn examines the relationships between Nicole and Jay; Ari and Mimi; both sets of parents and their children; Julian and Daisy, Judge Solomon Richter and his wife, Sarah; and the Richter’s daughter, Abigail, and Rabbi Teddy Lewin, who is instructing Sarah for her adult bat mitzvah.

Family, suggests the judge’s wife Sarah, is not of necessity a matter of blood relation, but rather an aggregate of those to whom we are closely bound. “In the world to come, we will find that we are all related, to the poor, the needy, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow in your midst,” she says during an adult bat mitzvah commentary on the parsha of Re’eh. To draw close to God, people must “turn toward each other, recognize our kinship, and act accordingly,” she adds.

If this is so for distant blood relations, and even non-family members, how much more true is it about parents, children and siblings? Drawing lessons like that one from The Laws of Gravity, with all of its main characters being Jewish, allows the reader to evaluate the case presented in the book not just from the perspective of New York state law, but from Jewish and Torah lenses.

For that reason, I predict this thoughtful and intriguing novel will qualify as a topic for discussion among book groups—especially those that are based at synagogues.

Book information: The Laws of Gravity, a novel by Liz Rosenberg, Amazon Publishing, (c) 2013, ISBN: 9781611099546, 310 pages, $24.95.

Donald H. Harrison is editor of the San Diego Jewish World (www.sdjewishworld.com), where this story was originally published.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Featured Sports World Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA. “Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal. After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief. Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.